For a Better Brisbane

Archive for May 2010

Howard Smith Wharves

Cliff stabilisation works at the Howard Smith Wharves have begun. The site is under the Story Bridge and continues along the Bowen Tce cliffs. The Brisbane Times online newspaper have published artist impressions about how a parkland area may look. This blog could not, however, locate official artist impressions of the proposed buildings.

Cliff face concreting and stabilisation works are in progress. Note the use of steel reinforcement.

As usual, there are opponents and proponents of the proposal to redevelop this site. The application number is A002165832 with documents about this development found at Brisbane City Council’s planning and development online website.

The site is about 35 200 square meters in area (3.52 ha) and has a number or air raid shelters which were built in 1941-1942 by the Brisbane City Council during wartime. Redevelopment and urban renewal for the area is proposed by the Brisbane City Council in three separate precincts:

  1. Hotel and tourism
  2. Restaurants, retail, gallery and the like
  3. Active outdoor recreation, community facilities

The main points of contention seem to be the boutique hotel, perceived future traffic impacts on Bowen Tce and whether the proposed uses would be broadly appealing to the general community as opposed to an exclusive upmarket clientele.  Often in development proposals, concerns may extend beyond what the site or proposal is (buildings, uses, dimensions, heights), into social and demographic aspects and what that might symbolise.

Current uses of the site include a storage depot and shipping containers behind chainwire fences. A 'pillbox' air raid bunker is visible on the left.

Commercial, non-government and private activity on publicly owned land and features in Brisbane is not new. Kangaroo point has the Riverlife Adventure Centre based at the Naval Stores near the base of the Kangaroo point cliffs which runs functions, weddings, aboriginal experiences and kayaking. South Bank Parklands has a number of restaurants which are nestled into the parkland fabric, and the Story Bridge is used by the Story Bridge Adventure Climb experience.

Most of the site is off-limits to the public due to safety risks and disrepair.

While most of this site is locked away behind chain wire and is strictly off-limits to the public, the potential for it to become an important place for the people of Brisbane to enjoy the river, bridge views and sightsee during Riverfire are there. Further consultation is required but also more artist impressions about the scale, size and how the proposed buildings (such as the hotel) on the site will look like is absolutely needed. Without this information, people will only have the grapevines to source their information from.

Entrance to the bikeway on the site. The building is boarded up, but might make for a nice pub!

External links

Virtual tour of the Howard Smith Wharves

The 2007 Howard Smith Wharves community consultation report


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May 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Paratransit: A neglected transport solution

QUT PhD researcher Mamun Rahman in a green cab at South Bank. Photo:QUT Marketing and Communication/Erika Fish

Paratransit describes transport modes that lie in the area between cars and a buses, including:

  • NightLink Flat-Fare taxis
  • Taxis
  • Pedicabs
  • Vans/Vanpools
  • Minibuses, Jeepneys and Jitneys
  • Flexibuses (semi-fixed or non-fixed routes), dial-a-ride
  • Pedicabs
  • Tricycles/Trikes/Cycle Rickshaws
  • Airport transfer shuttles
  • Carpools

Paratransit generally involves a private operator, usually operating without subsidy, to supply public transport services. This mode is generally overlooked, suffers from scant research in academic circles, isn’t widely known and is rarely marketed alongside public transport options. The potential for this mode to cut congestion should however not be overlooked. Often paratransit is dismissed on “it won’t work here” arguments. However, flat-fare NightLink taxi services in Brisbane show that it can be  done successfully. So why not also during the day?

In particular the transport system provided by flat fare taxis is both innovative and very popular. NightLink FlatFare taxi services are of particular interest and uniqueness as they represent one of the few public transport services operated in Australia that does not require additional financial support through subsidy.

— “Nightlink for the party crowd” paper presented at the Thredbo ITS conference.

Cebu minivans give a no-timetable high frequency public transport service. The routes are fixed, the extremely cheap fares are the same for all vehicles and the frequency is so good that in a minute or so you can hail one from the street. Operators are private and are registered with the Land Transport Office. Taxis also exist, but are a separate service.

Indeed, many overseas cities and towns (such as in Indonesia or The Phillipines) paratransit is the main public transport mode because classical public transport is poor, or simply isn’t provided or funded. This includes small rural towns all the way up to large cities with over 2 million people (such as Cebu, Phillipines).

Brisbane also has a few (lesser-known) paratransit options. Residents in the following suburbs can take advantage of Brisbane City Council’s personalised public transport for as little as $1.00 each way.

  • Aspley
  • Bald Hills
  • Carindale Hills
  • Calamvale
  • Drewvale
  • Hemmant
  • Karana Downs
  • Wynnum

Although this mode is often neglected and is poorly known, it has the potential to extend congestion relief to areas where classical public transport isn’t practical or density is too low (such as the Moreton Bay Islands). It also has potential as shuttle services to rail, busway and ferry stops during peak hour or where classical public transport’s fixed-routes and fixed schedules are too inflexible.

Better marketing alongside public transport modes (such as on the TransLink website) and integrated ticketing (such as being able to use GoCard in taxis for payment) are a first step. Providing loading bays and zone based fares would be a second step. Further paratransit ideas for Brisbane will be the subject of future posts.

Paratransit in America: redefining mass transportation by Robert Cervero is a good read for those wanting to know more about this mode of transportation.

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May 23, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Postscript: Light Rail for Brisbane 3

Map of Karlsruhe’s dual mode-LRT network. Vehicles may run on black, blue and red lines. Image courtesy of NIROV, Netherlands

A map of the Karlsruhe public transport network can be found here.

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May 20, 2010 at 11:40 am

Light rail for Brisbane 3

The BrisUrbane blog series on Light Rail for Brisbane continues with today’s post about dual-mode light rail. These are also known as ‘RegioTrams’ or ‘Tram-Trains’. For videos and earlier posts of Light Rail for Brisbane 1 and Light Rail for Brisbane 2, just click the links.

Dual-mode light rail and a German Deutsche Bahn train sharing tracks, power and station platforms. Photo courtesy of Albtal-Verjehrs-Gesellschaft mbH with permission. Click image for URL

One of the problems with conventional trains is that they can’t jump off the tracks and pick passengers up from a street stop. Dual mode light rail, pioneered in Karlsruhe, Germany, changes this by running light rail on the street in ‘tram mode’ with light rail then entering the conventional railway network to run at high-speed to the next town in ‘train mode’. The benefits include:

  • Passenger increase
  • Stimulated development along the route
  • A seamless transfer-free journey from outer regional and country areas
  • Direct access to city streets and city stops
  • High-speed by using the rail network (up to 100 km/hr)
  • Avoids the need to build large lengths of track by using existing railway lines

Currently dual-mode light rail has found application in connecting smaller towns, on regional rail lines, or where distances are large with low density in between. Over 470+ km of track now forms part of the Karlsruhe dual-mode light rail network, demonstrating that light rail can serve significant distances; far more than just inner city suburbs.

No density? No worries! Image courtesy of MCMC under creative commons license. Click image for URL.

In Brisbane, the current rail network is already very busy as it is. However, this technology may be something to think about for extending the Doomben line to the ULDA’s North Shore Hamilton development. Queensland also has a number of cities and towns where there are rail lines but few or no trains (such as, Townsville or Toowoomba) where this idea might also have merit.

Dual mode light rail in the street. 'Karlsruhe Zweisystemstraßenbahn'. Creative commons license. Click image for URL.

The concept has proven so successful at attracting patronage, it is now in operation in a number of cities in Europe:

Adelaide, South Australia has also announced that it will be getting dual-mode light rail.

Further information

TransportTechnologie-Consult Karlsruhe GmbH (TTK):

Nova Terra, TramTrain Connects town and country, April 2008

Connected Cities- Light Rail Transit

Karlsruhe Stadbahn, Wikipedia

BrisUrban wishes to acknowledge the permission and help of Karlsruhe’s transportation authority Albtal-Verkehrs Gesellschaft mbH / Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund for this post.

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May 15, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Copenhagen bike lanes: separating traffic and cyclists

More and more people are taking to bicycles. In fact, bicycle sales have outstripped car sales for the last decade, with just over 1.2 million bicycles sold in 2008 alone. Cycling is also a great way for people who want the health benefits of regular exercise. It’s cheaper than owning a car and almost as convenient. A commuter paying a two zone fare with their GoCard would end up paying about $1,404 a year in fares. A good bicycle costs around half much- paying itself off in 6 months. With good maintenance bicycles can last up to a decade and longer.

With more people on the road conflicts with pedestrian and car traffic are inevitable. Copenhagen bike lanes are an improvement on the “green painted lane” or “stenciled yellow cyclist” on roads which suffer from cars driving over the lane area or cars parking in it.  The challenge is to expand these from isolated installations into a linked network across Brisbane for high-volume daily commuting just like any other transport system.

Copenhagen bicycle lanes separate car, pedestrians and cyclists from one another. This cycle lane leads to the new Kurilpa bridge

Simple, low-cost and low-key improvements can also have a big impact. Giving cyclists priority parking space near buildings and transport hubs, allowing standard (not just fold-up) bicycles on trains including peak hour with a dedicated space or hook, and access to a water fountain or drink vending machine are small things that can make a big difference on a large-scale.

Central Station, The Hague, Netherlands.

Aim high Brisbane! Central Station, The Hague, Netherlands. Reproduced under creative commons licence from Daniel Sparing's photostream

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May 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Density + Character

Can higher density go hand in hand with character?

The words ‘higher density’ brings up images of bland brick 1960s unit blocks or Gold Coast style towers. Residents worry about the character of their neighborhoods being destroyed or something big and ugly being built next to them.

There are many examples of developments which are, well , ugly. Developers would face less opposition if their designs actually complemented the surrounding areas, perhaps by borrowing elements from Queenslander style homes around them – tin, wood and weather-board like panels. Vegetation can also be used effectively to frame and soften buildings.

It’s said the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This post looks at examples of Brisbane townhouses, apartments and units for accommodating more people on less land, that (in your correspondent’s opinion) actually look nice.

1. Elements of Queenslander style design reflecting 'timber and tin' are clear. This development is a compact 2 storey height, inner city location with balcony. Simply amazing!

2. Not far away from 1. are these townhouses. Tin, sloping roof and wooden slats for a fence and balcony for enjoying the Queensland outdoors. Each townhouse also has a water tank in a compact front yard.

3. The bulk of residences can be discreetly hidden from the view of the street. West End

4. Another example of tin and wood elements incorporated into the design. Although 3 storeys high, trees and vegetation soften and break up the visual impact of the building. West End

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May 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

Tagged with ,

PostScript: Brisbane’s public transport fleet

A postscript. Taxis and pedicabs (such as green cabs powered by a bicycle) are a form of public transport that plays a real role in many cities overseas.

The previous post can also be used to roughly estimate car lane capacity. In free-flow traffic a car is usually 3 seconds behind the next one. So a car lane can handle roughly 1200 vehicles an hour (may be higher according to specific roads), if each car carries on average 1.2 people, that’s 1440 people per direction per hour per lane. Most cars have five seats, so if every seat was occupied (which it usually isn’t) cars could carry 6000 people per direction per hour per lane.

This means an estimated 76% of theoretical car capacity is wasted during peak hour. This is a huge waste of money, petrol and road space by any standard, but it also presents a special opportunity for a radically creative solution which will be the subject of future posts.

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May 1, 2010 at 8:33 pm

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